E-reader faceoff: Kindle or Nook? Here's a comparison

Aug 27, 2010 By Mark W. Smith

There's a titanic battle brewing in the e-reader market. The Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook are leaving competitors in the dust this summer and are locked in a war that has dropped prices by more than half in just a year.

These electronic devices let you read , magazines or newspapers on an e-ink display. They can store thousands of items.

Both Amazon and B&N now boast e-readers that have dipped below $150 -- a key price point for consumers prone to impulse buys.

Just recently, Plastic Logic shelved plans for the long-delayed Que e-reader, joining a growing list of competitors who have folded amid the intense competition.

With the release of the all-new Kindle 3 at the end of the month, readers have some tough decisions to make, but there has never been a better time to buy.

Amazon said it sold 180 e-books in July for every 100 hardcover books -- a sign that the e-reader train isn't slowing down soon.

HARDWARE: DISPLAYS DIFFER

The big difference here is the Nook's small color touch screen at the bottom of the device. The Kindle features a physical keyboard and a handy five-way rocker button for navigation. The Nook's color touch screen is nice, but the navigation can feel disjointed as you touch one screen to move the cursor on another. And the bright color display can be distracting while you read.

The two e-readers had long used the same 6-inch e-ink display, but Amazon promises the Kindle 3 will have 50 percent better contrast than previous models.

CONNECTEDNESS: GO WITH 3G

Both the Kindle 3 and come in versions with WiFi only and with 3G. The WiFi-only models need a wireless hot spot to connect to the Web, while the 3G models can go online anywhere, just like a smartphone. So with WiFi only, you won't always be able to download books or newspapers on the go.

If you're a frequent traveler, or don't have consistent access to WiFi, you'll want to go with a slightly more expensive 3G model. It's worth it, though, as there is never a charge to access the 3G wireless service once you have either device.

SELECTION: DO SOME SEARCHING

Amazon boasts a library of more than 630,000 books, while B&N says it has more than a million. Beware of those figures, though, as many of the B&N books are older, public domain books available for free on both platforms. Amazon does not include those books in its tally.

Some authors have been coaxed to sign exclusivity agreements with one store or the other (only Amazon has the most recent Salman Rushdie novel, for example). So it's smart to go online and do a spot check of your favorite authors before committing to an .

ONLY ON NOOK: IN-STORE PERKS

Here's a big advantage for Nook: While using one inside an actual B&N store, readers can browse and read entire books for free.

Another perk on Nook is the ability to lend most books to a friend. Readers can send a book to a friend's Nook for up to 14 days.

ONLY ON KINDLE: READING ALOUD

The Kindle includes the option to have a book read to you. That's an important consideration for those with poor eyesight -- or if you just like being read to.

MOBILE APPS: BOOKS EVERYWHERE

Because the real goal for retailers here is to sell you e-books, not e-readers, Amazon and B&N have gone to great lengths to make sure you can read purchased e-books on any device you'd like.

Both platforms have free dedicated apps for the PC, Mac, Android-based smartphones and the Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Books read on each device will automatically hold your place on all the others.

AVAILABILITY: KINDLE SOLD OUT

Pre-orders for the Kindle 3 have been so brisk that Amazon has had to push the ship date for some orders from Aug. 27 to early September, though first shipments of pre-orders were on their way early. New orders will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis online.

The Nook is available now, both online at bn.com and at B&N stores.

PRICE: A MOVING TARGET

When Barnes & Noble announced a $60 price drop to $199 for the 3G Nook this summer, Amazon announced a new price for the Kindle -- $189 -- just hours later.

When the 3 is released next month, it will be the new price champ at $139 for the WiFi-only model, but don't expect it to hold that title long. Especially as we approach the holiday shopping season, there's no telling how low these e-readers will go.

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ChiRaven
5 / 5 (2) Aug 27, 2010
After the "1984" fiasco, I want an e-book system that lets me store my e-book library safely somewhere where I know that I will always have access to the volumes INDEPENDENT of the vendor. Until a company can offer me that (and I haven't seen one yet that has been willing to offer that feature)I am not willing to invest in this technology. I want my library to be MINE, permanently, not mine at someone else's whim.
KBK
not rated yet Aug 27, 2010
Soft of the point I was going to make. Books may be bulky but they are, like vinyl records, one of the two only true archive formats that mankind has ever come up with that can stand the test of time.

I, for one, and not looking forward to, lets say, 40 years from now.. having even our older fiction altered to suit the whims of some given overlord group.

Today's world is bad enough as it is, with our current 'ministry of truth' screwing us on a daily basis. As of this time, it is at least fairly difficult to get rid of records..or to disprove their validity and existence. When it all becomes digital the very basis of what we understand our 'ground' to be, will vanish, virtually overnight..and we will not know who we are any more, or where we had and have come from.

When that happens, it is very easy for whomever has their hands on the levers to put in...whatever they want.

So no, I don't like or want any of these damn 'Brave New Readers'.

Abominations, they be.
KBK
not rated yet Aug 27, 2010
As a prime example, A university I know has actual physical records of USPTO patents #1 through today's listings.

I spoke to their head librarian one day. The man was going to get rid of the entire thing. All of it. No more storage, etc. A HUGE pile.

I explained that as new things, new discoveries, arrived.. some old patents were found to be 'interesting' and explained some things that some people/groups/organizations wanted to 'make disappear'. Some went black, and some were deliberately buried...and some of those patents from way back then..simply DO NOT exist in the given current electronic USPTO system. Not a chance of finding them. This, I explained to him.

He made a decision that was total 180 degree swing, and decided to keep every single patent. all of them. Under lock and key, so the collection could not be stripped.

It is now part of the under lock and key reserve system - to be sure that it can be mined, indefinitely - by the given university.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

ngrai
not rated yet Aug 30, 2010
ChiRaven and KBK: The issue you raise is important but hardly outweighs the benefits of e-readers. The issue is also resolvable without resort to continuing to fell trees. To deny yourselves the benefits of an e-reader seems silly, to me.
Aloken
not rated yet Aug 31, 2010
If you problem is that they can access your device whenever they feel like it use the wi-fi only version. Pretty easy to disable wi-fi and shut yourself from the world.